Monday, July 23, 2012
A3: "But, are they certified?"
A very good friend of mine was featured as a presenter/speaker at a conference at a midwest university that uses a "Buckeye" as it's mascot. The subject matter was how to apply "lean thinking" to a job shop environment, and my friend is pretty darn good at it. People in attendance included business owners, professors, lean leaders and consultants.
My friend is Chris Deconti, and he is the VP of Operations at Light Metals Coloring in Southington, CT. At the time of his talk, my friend mentioned that the people that work in his company have 30 or so active kaizan events. That is, continuous, incremental improvement projects done using A3 as the vehicle. Each team consists of between 3-5 people, and are led by 30 different leaders. Some of the people at the conference were confused. Many are used to doing 6-12 "kaizan events" over the course of an entire year. (LMC, by the way, is on pace to complete 250 before 2016 is done). This culture of continuous improvement Chris was describing has resulted in extraordinary gains with regard to progress toward "flow". The people who are doing the work are the people leading the A3s.
One of the most telling questions Chris got after his presentation was whether the people leading these A3s were "certified". I guess the question was whether these people were certified as black belts, green belts, or in "lean", or trained and qualified to lead this many "events".
Remember that Taichii Ohno, the Godfather of the Toyota Production System, didn't spend much time training and certifying. Instead, he instilled a CULTURE of fearless people who knew that part of their job was to improve their job! You want to become a great golfer? Field goal kicker? Baseball pitcher? Then GO DO IT. (You won't get there by being certified). I guarantee you that LMC will feature world class problem solvers if they continue to experiment and solve problems the way they are today. Learning the tool of value stream mapping is best done while using it to solve a problem. Same with the other tools.
Don't get bogged down certifying. Instead, focus on a developing a culture!! Like my friend is.